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Appeals court temporarily blocks former prosecutor's testimony before House panel

The ruling comes after a district judge ordered Mark Pomerantz, who worked for the Manhattan DA’s office, to testify before the GOP-led Judiciary Committee probing Trump's prosecution.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks after the arraignment of former President Donald Trump in New York on April 4, 2023.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks after the arraignment of former President Donald Trump in New York on April 4.John Minchillo / AP

An appeals court Wednesday night temporarily blocked a former prosecutor for the Manhattan district attorney’s office from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, putting on hold a district court ruling against DA Alvin Bragg.

The appeals court ruling comes a day after U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil ordered former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz to appear for a deposition before the Judiciary Committee, despite Bragg’s assertion that House Republicans are attempting to interfere with his investigation of former President Donald Trump.

Vyskocil sided with the arguments presented by the committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, that its subpoena of Pomerantz was lawful and proper.

“The subpoena was issued with a ‘valid legislative purpose’ in connection with the ‘broad’ and ‘indispensable’ congressional power to ‘conduct investigations,” Vyskocil, a Trump nominee, wrote. “Mr. Pomerantz must appear for the congressional deposition. No one is above the law.”

A spokesperson for Jordan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bragg sued last week in federal court in Manhattan alleging that the committee and Jordan are improperly trying to interfere with his prosecution of Trump for political reasons.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit's order delays Pomerantz's testimony, which had been scheduled for Thursday. Bragg had filed an emergency motion seeking an interim administrative stay, according to the appeals court order.

The decision gives the courts more time to consider arguments from Bragg, who in his lawsuit called the congressional inquiry into his probe of Trump an “unprecedently brazen and unconstitutional attack” of an ongoing investigation. Bragg argued that allowing Jordan's demands, including the subpoena of Pomerantz, would cause “imminent irreparable harm if the secret and privileged material is compelled to be disclosed.”

“Congress has no power to supervise state criminal prosecutions,” Bragg’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, wrote in the lawsuit.

Jordan has maintained that Bragg’s investigation into Trump is politically motivated. The former president pleaded not guilty this month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his role in hush money payments made toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has dismissed the investigation as a partisan “witch hunt.”

Jordan had argued that Pomerantz’s previous role in the DA’s office leading a probe into Trump’s finances makes him “uniquely situated to provide information that is relevant and necessary” to his committee’s investigation. He has also noted that Pomerantz has already divulged information about the investigation in a book that was published in February, as well as in media interviews.

Jordan, who did not cooperate with a subpoena from the Democratic-led House Jan. 6 committee last year, also pushed back at Bragg’s argument that he is trying to interfere with the DA’s investigation into Trump. He said the Judiciary Committee needs the information from Pomerantz, in part, for a “legislative purpose” — a bill that would allow state criminal cases against former presidents to be moved to federal court.

Bragg pointed to the proposed legislation as proof that the committee is trying to interfere, arguing that it “would apply to any cases pending at the time of enactment.”

Bragg instructed Pomerantz against responding to the committee’s subpoena. He also sued the former prosecutor to block his testimony, arguing that the interests and privileges of the DA’s office must be protected.

Pomerantz filed a declaration in court Monday asking the judge to block the subpoena because he’s in an “impossible position.”

“[I]f I refuse to provide information to the Committee, I risk being held in contempt of Congress and referred to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution. If, on the other hand, I defy the District Attorney’s instructions and answer questions, I face possible legal or ethical consequences, including criminal prosecution,” his filing said.

Pomerantz, who resigned from Bragg’s office in February 2022, said he was “not involved in the decision to seek Donald Trump’s indictment on the charges filed against him.”

“I have had no conversations about prosecuting Mr. Trump with the District Attorney or any member of the prosecution team following my resignation,” Pomerantz said.

Jordan held a field hearing in Manhattan on Monday to attack Bragg, a Democrat, as weak on crime. The Judiciary Committee heard from victims of violent crime as Republicans argued that Bragg has dropped the ball on keeping the public safe to focus on prosecuting Trump.

Bragg’s office has defended the Trump probe, and it pointed to new data showing crime has significantly fallen in Manhattan.